Berkshire Carousel, Lanesborough eye plan to put ride at Laston Park
LANESBOROUGH -- The Berkshire Carousel group has returned to its original plan of a self-contained, year-round facility to house the amusement ride and amenities.
With the town's help, organizers of the $2.4 million volunteer-driven project want to construct a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot building on town-owned property to house the carousel, cafe, gift shop and social hall. The facility would be at Laston Park, formerly the Sunset Drive-In, on Route 7.
At the annual town meeting on June 11, Lanesborough residents will be asked to approve a $500,000 loan toward the estimated $1.4 million cost of the facility at the town park along Route 7.
The borrowing -- to be repaid entirely by the carousel group -- would be combined with a $500,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, according to town officials.
Carousel organizers also would have to raise the remaining $400,000 to pay for the building. If all the funding is secured, the carousel could be operational in October, Berkshire Carousel Director Maria Caccaviello said on Thursday.
Berkshire Carousel project organizers have already raised the $1 million to build the ride itself. It includes 32 horses, a donkey, two chariots and other hand-carved wooden adornments.
Initially, the carousel was planned to be in a year-round facility near downtown Pittsfield, until organizers decided last fall to put it in the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough.
However, the Lanesborough Board of Selectmen recently voted to seek Town Meeting's support for the carousel to be in town, a move that Chairman John Goerlach says could make Lanesborough more of a destination.
"It will draw people to the town," Goerlach said. "We also want the project to have a shot at staying in Lanesborough."
The 12-sided building with a glass facade to showcase the carousel is similar to the one once planned for Pittsfield, said Arthur Rosen, the project's artistic and production manager.
"This will give us the space required and the facility will tie into the town's recreation at the park," he said.
Laston Park is the third proposed location for the carousel, since the project was conceived nearly eight years ago by co-founders Jim and Jackie Shulman of Galena, Ohio.
Originally, the carousel was planned for a vacant lot at the corner of Church and Center streets, next to the CVS pharmacy, in Pittsfield. Jim Shulman, a Pittsfield native, had purchased the property for $400,000.
However, carousel officials last October announced the ride would be housed at the Berkshire Mall. Since March 2011, the mall has hosted the carousel's workshop in one of its storefronts.
If the Laston Park location is a go, Lanesborough would own the building, but Berkshire Carousel group would be responsible for the maintenance and operation of the facility.
Nearly 300 volunteers during the past five years have worked to bring the carousel ride's components to life.
In addition to hand-crafted horses and other rides, the carousel will have 14 outer running boards painted with scenery inspired by the Berkshires. Another 14 boards will be portraits of the families that contributed the most during the carousel's creation, be it with funding or housing some construction before the mall space became available.
Debbie D. Smith of Lenox, an interior designer and one of the original volunteers, has painted several of the horses and on Thursday started painting one of the running boards.
Smith says visitors to the carousel workshop have been impressed by the painstaking detail that's gone into the project.
"People can't believe all these volunteers are doing the carving and painting," she said. "The quality is superb."
Next month, the volunteers expect to receive an 85-year-old frame for the carousel being refurbished in Ohio. The entire $350,000 cost is being paid for by a private donor, according to Caccaviello.
Bruce Goguen of Greyson Consultants in Pittsfield plans to hook up a computer to the carousel mechanism to monitor its performance and enhance the ride's entertainment value.
"The computer will play all kinds of music," Goguen said. "If someone wants to rent the carousel for a wedding, we can play whatever music the couple wants."
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.
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